Tag Archives: child to parent violence and abuse

Who’s in Charge? A much awaited book from Eddie Gallagher

 

Many of us have been waiting a long time for this book to appear. Whether you prefer to think about it as a bible or a brain is up to you, but the 500+ pages represent the outpouring of Eddie Gallagher’s understanding and thinking over nearly 25 years in the field of children’s violence and abuse towards parents, drawing on both available literature and his own significant practice experience, working with families individually and in developing the Who’s in Charge? model of work with parents.

Written primarily with parents in mind, the material is very practical; the style is conversational; chapters are broken down into clearly titled sections; and case studies, exercises and illustrations are scattered throughout. Following opening chapters which look at defining child to parent violence, and the profile of families affected, the reader is led first though some background understanding of parenting, parenting style, and parent blaming, before addressing our growing understanding of why children can act in this way, and offering practical steps that can be taken to bring about change. In each instance the subsections delve deeper, offer a counter argument, occasionally mock, and generally bring colour and the author’s distinctive voice to what might otherwise feel a rather daunting exercise. Eddie wants to break the taboo around this issue, to help parents understand that they are not alone, and to open up the conversation more widely.

The book is structured with chapters leading on from one another, and developing ideas further in subsequent sections. Eddie has a particular focus on personality types of children affected, as an outworking of his own practice. His experience has shown that this is an issue for many families where there is experience of domestic violence, or a parenting style that leaves children feeling entitled and inappropriately powerful in the home. Particular issues, such as girls who abuse their parents, warrant a separate chapter to themselves. The thorny question of reward and punishment, or ‘consequences’, is developed over a number of chapters. ‘Optional’ chapters at the end include a look at substance use, social media, mental health diagnoses, and the sometimes tricky or turbulent relationships with ex-partners. Eddie feels very strongly about some of these and you can sense his passion in the way he writes. You may feel that some of these may offer more understanding of the issues than actual responses.  I found the section on diagnoses particularly interesting. This is always a contentious issue, but also one that we need to seriously consider as practitioners and thinkers in this area of work or study, leaking as it does into the discussions on definition and intent.

Eddie urges realism about the prospects for the future, acknowledging that some families will continue to experience violence. At the same time, he offers advice to parents, which has proved useful and successful in restoring harmony over the quarter-century that he has been in practice.

Those familiar with Eddie’s work, through reading his website or through facilitating or attending groups, may recognise some of the material, but there is plenty more here to develop the themes and extend the discussion and learning.

What do I think?

  • This is a book to dip in and out of, whether as a parent or a professional – difficult to face in one sitting – although in doing so you may miss other linked ideas.
  • A mine of amazing resources for work with families experiencing this problem.
  • Some families, for instance those with adopted children, may feel that the material is less directly relevant to their family circumstances and parenting style.
  • Some slightly annoying editorial glitches, which I would hope might be addressed in future editions.
  • With so little information available for parents, this is an important and timely book, offering tried and tested understanding and responses.

Eddie Gallagher, 2018, Who’s in Charge? Why children abuse parents, and what you can do about it,    Austin Macauley Publishers, £17.99 (30% off at the moment!)

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CPV, who needs a definition?

For as long as I have been working and thinking in this field, people have been talking about the problem that there is no official, agreed definition of child to parent violence (or whatever we are going to call it.) There are many and varied reasons why people have thought that having a definition might be quite a good idea. Essentially these are to do with naming it as ‘a thing’, with parents recognising what they experience as abusive, with services being better able to respond, with the possibility of counting something if we name and define it, with the hope of developing policy and practice responses at strategic level.

There were some raised eyebrows then at the recent N8PRP conference on Improving Policing Research and Practice on Child to Parent Violence and Abuse, when it was suggested not once, but twice, that a definition might be more trouble than it was worth and we could do without one altogether! Stick with me, and you can then decide for yourself whether the arguments made sense.

First of all, why do we want a definition? I refer you to my earlier paragraph here, but also there was a lot of discussion on the day about the way that different services conceptualise CPV, which then goes on to drive the particular response of that agency. If, or as, different agencies have different mandates and policy frameworks, this can help explain why it can sometimes be difficult to have conversations across services. Similarly, when people are doing research into the issue, they either start by choosing a definition, or even writing their own, to reflect what they want to study. Would an official definition help with this, or would people still remain within their own conceptualisation and paradigm?

If I haven’t lost you yet, it gets a bit more straightforward soon!

I have been working in this area for a relatively short time – since 2005, and yet the knowledge and understanding has grown – and changed – significantly in that time. One of the problems of a fast moving world, it was argued, is that the definitions we have been using have been continually updated as new insights are learned. So, definitions of child to parent violence have expanded and evolved over time to include fathers as well as mothers, younger ages of children, different types of abuse, and more comprehensive impacts on the family. One obvious example is that the Home Office guidance document, published in 2015, refers to Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse, rather than also including younger ages. If we fix on a definition now, we may well be rewriting it in a year’s time as new information comes to light. This is, of course, not the only area of work to which this argument could apply.

Secondly, and following on, it was argued that by using a particular definition we risk closing off the response to some groups. So, for instance, if we adopt a particular age limit in a definition it might make it difficult for parents of younger children to access help early on. (Arguably this issue of closing off help to particular groups happens at the moment any way because of where help is sometimes sited. Back to the conceptualisation argument here?)

Rather than adopting a limiting definition, it was suggested that we should look at risk and harm, and work in response to those. (If it feels abusive to someone, then it is, perhaps.)

Hannah Bows, who has done some impressive research into the abuse of older people, both within  and without the family, proposed that it would make more sense to understand the issue within a life course narrative. This is not actually a new problem she argues, but the extension of an existing problem, and it makes more sense then to share understanding across the field, as we see how abuse of parents from younger children can extend into adulthood, and then on to old age. She argues that it is not age that is the defining factor in distinguishing aspects of domestic abuse, but other variables that need to be considered. Following this argument, we would adopt one single definition for abuse within the family right across the life-course. Child to parent violence would then be a ‘subset’ of this. (This is something I would like to return to at another time. Or if anyone else would like to write something they would be very welcome!)

Plenty to think about there then – so, pick your jaws up off the floor, unscramble your brains, and let me know what you think!

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Child to parent violence and sexually inappropriate behaviour

When authors discuss the different ways in which child to parent violence and abuse presents, it is common to include sexual abuse in the list; and yet it is difficult to find anywhere in the literature where this discussion is expanded. I know from conversations with adoptive families that the issue is very much alive, and extremely painful to discuss. While many families fear that a request for help will result in the instigation of a child protection investigation, this is an area where alarm bells will certainly be ringing straight away. How to respond though, in a way that maintains the safety of all involved, while not further traumatising either the young person or the parents, is rarely interrogated. A recent conversation with a friend undertaking a PhD at Bournemouth University has encouraged me that more information and greater discussion may be on the way! Continue reading

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Non-Violent Resistance as a response to a “Wicked Problem”

Declan Coogan’s new book, Child to Parent Violence and Abuse: Family Interventions with Non-Violent Resistance, was published in November, and I am very pleased to finally be able to read and review it!

Coogan first encountered Non-Violent Resistance (NVR) as a therapeutic intervention in 2007, and has been instrumental in piloting it as a response to child to parent violence, offering training and consultation, and ultimately in introducing it as a nationwide model in Ireland. As such, he is very definitely qualified to present this book as an explanation of, and introduction to, the practice of NVR, particularly with reference to violence and abuse from children to parents. Continue reading

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“Children who exhibit the most severe and persistent anti-social behaviour are being failed by the system”

There has been a mixed response to the item about children with “Callous Unemotional Traits” on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

 

(Clip here)

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Child to parent violence and abuse at Community Care Live 2017

 

 

I am thrilled to announce that I will be speaking about child to parent violence and abuse at the Community Care Live 2017 conference in London on September 26th, along with Al Coates. As one of the flagship social work events of the year, this is a real privilege, and it feels like an important milestone in the development of awareness and better support for families.

We will be presenting on why CPVA happens, and how to respond when a family seeks help.

  • What research tells us about risk factors associated with child to parent violence, and what the most common ages are for abuse to start.
  • How the abuse affects parents, and what they want from social workers and services.
  • The different issues raised when child to parent abuse emerges as an issue for a child who has been adopted, or is in a foster care, kinship care or special guardianship placement.
  • How social workers and services can support families experiencing violence or abuse.

Do come along and say hello (and hear us speak!) We have the early slot on the Tuesday, so no excuses!

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“Family Interventions with Non Violent Resistance”

It’s great to see a new book in the field of child to parent violence and abuse coming out later this year from Declan Coogan, who has driven the development of understanding and use of Non Violent Resistance in Ireland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon now, or you can sign up to receive more information from the publisher, JKP, once it is available.

Addressing the under-reported issue of child to parent violence and abuse, this book presents the effective intervention method of Non-Violent Resistance. Tips for adapting the method, alongside case studies and downloadable forms make this an invaluable tool for practitioners working with affected families.

Providing an authoritative overview of the growing phenomena of child to parent violence – a feature in the daily life of increasing numbers of families – this book outlines what we know about it, what is effective in addressing it, and outlines a proven model for intervention. 

Based on Non Violent Resistance (NVR), the model is founded on a number of key elements: parental commitment to non-violence, de-escalation skills, increased parental presence, engaging the support network and acts of reconciliation. The book outlines the theory and principles, and provides pragmatic guidance for implementing these elements, accompanied by case studies to bring the theory to life.

Declan was part of the team who worked on the pan-European RCPV project which reported in 2015; and continues to teach, train and develop the work within Ireland.

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